Friday, July 20, 2012

Identity Tresses!

"So which one of these lovely ladies do you think deserves to win the Miss Beautiful Hair Title?", addressed the Master of the Ceremony to the some 1000 NDA cadets. And on that cue, all the girls turned around, and swirled to flaunt their hair. There was one with beautiful, curly locks like Preity Zinta, another with swishing, sultry hair like Sushmita Sen, one with wavy, brown hair and one with beautiful bangs framing her face. At one end of this line-up was one girl, with waist-length hair, black and thick, but in a braid. Now, she was not even sure she should have been up there with all the girls with their trendy hair styles. But, her friends had made sure she went up there. 

As each girl came into the spotlight, a cheer from the crowd was used to judge how popular the certain contestant was. When the tall girl with the long braided hair came up, there was a huge roar even before she answered the question: "So, what special treatment do you use for your hair?". Now this was a girl, who had never been to the saloon for a hair cut or styling. She was in a fix as to what her answer should be. But, almost instinctively, the words popped out of her mouth, the words that she didn't have to make up, but simply came naturally, "My Mom! She has taken care of my hair all along and she is the secret to my healthy hair. Oh yes, and coconut oil". And even before the winner was announced, it was pretty clear the term 'coconut oil' had won the heart of the Kerala Crowd. But what she had also won that day was the confidence that to make your place in the world, you don't have to be like someone else, get trendy, cut your hair short or do something that is not you. She won a special dance, two movie tickets and some vouchers. She felt like a princess and was actually treated like one; after all, it was the NDA Ball, and if you could count on one thing from the NDA cadets, it was to be gracious and gentlemanly. 

Flash forward to 6 years! She was married now, half way around the world and busy managing work and home. But, one thing still hadn't changed, her long, long hair. It wasn't as beautiful as before and was getting weak, but it was still an asset to her. She missed her mother's gentle brushes and craved to get her hair pampered by her mom. But that happened only once a year now,when she would visit her parents in India. She was getting tired of brushing her hair, and seeing it fall, was killing her. Her hair would break, and especially in the harsh winters, it would just come of from the root. And with her work, it was getting impossible to have a set regime for her hair.

One day, she said to her husband, "I am just sick of this, as much as I like to wear my hair long, I hate that it is thinning out so much. It is decided, I am going to get a hair-cut!". Her husband, who adored her beautiful, long hair tried making sense with her and finally asked: "How short?". And pat came the reply,  "Just up to my neck. All my friends get to have hair styles, and all I do is braid my hair. And, anyways who has long hair these days. It is more stylish to have short hair. And I don't want to be the odd one out!".

Her husband was quite astounded at this outburst, and realized it was best to just leave it at that for then. He kissed her on her head, and remarked, "Whatever makes you happy!".

She was getting late for work, and left hurriedly, but with a determination that she was going to go through with it, this evening. She spent the rest of the day at work, looking at women with different hair styles and trying to decide which one would be the best for her. As she was wrapping her work up, she got a message from her husband - "When are you going to get your hair-cut? Do you want me to come with you? We could go together after dinner! Tell me what you think". It was a little strange that he was taking so much interest, but to be fair, he had always been supportive of her decisions. Just that this one was hard to digest, because he had made it clear many times how much he loved her long hair, and would hate to see it get cut. 

Surprised as she was, she thought it would be a good idea to have him for second opinion, when deciding on what style to get. So, they went home, prepared dinner, and there was a little envelope waiting for her in the kitchen. It had a bunch of pictures from her school and college, and a page from her diary. She had a smile on her face looking at pictures from special occasions like her convocation, her fun days from college, her 18th birthday, her wedding and what not. What remained constant was her long hair, initially in two plaits and then a single braid. The diary page had a note from her college friends that started with "Dear Baalon ki Rani". She was beginning to see the point her husband was trying to make. All her life, she had been associated with her long hair. And it had been an essential part of her journey. 

She glanced across at her husband, and said, "You are something, you know that, right?". He shrugged his shoulders, with an expression that said he had no clue what she was talking about. She ranted, "But, I still want to have my hair short....". To which, her husband said, "I am not saying that you shouldn't, I am just trying to remind you that every person has an identity, and yours has been 'The Girl with Long Hair' and not that it is your only identity. But you have some unique experiences and stories just because of your long hair. Every individual etches out their distinct life story because of their experiences, and that is what makes them different from the crowd"

That made her rerun her life events. And she could hear her husband, in the background, "I mean, how many people can claim to have shattered a 500 ml Volumetric Flask, just with one swish of their braid? And fewer so, could claim to have been hanging upside down on the Burma Bridge, because their braid had gotten stuck in a tree". All this brought a smile to her face, and she started reminiscing these moments. She excitedly said, "And how many could say that their braid was as thick as their horse's". Both of them broke into laughter at this remark.

The point that her husband was trying to make was very clear - there were a lot of wonderful memories associated with this asset of her's, and she had to decide if she was okay with moving on. She had been complimented about her hair a lot of times, it had helped start a number of conversations, and yes, that was the first thing people noticed about her. That was also what set her apart and made it easy to identify her in a crowd. It was of course, a symbol of her external personality and once people knew her better, her hair would just be one of the things that would be added to the list of things that defined her. The question was whether she was ready to part with it. She would still have her other defining features, her smile, her fierce nature, her love for animals, but one would be missing!

After a small period of silence, she quietly said, "I had gone to the saloon this afternoon, even before you had sent your message, and I couldn't go through with it. I was thinking of the same things that you said, and I wasn't sure if I was ready to move on. I even had a small nightmare, where with each lock, a part of an important time in my life was being snipped off. There went my convocation day, and to the left fell my horse-back riding days...". Her husband couldn't help, but laugh, to which she said, "No, really!!! It was very scary to have the cause behind my wonderful memories being sheared away...." 

Her husband gave an all-knowing grin, which said that he had seen this coming, all along, and then said,  "Now, now you don't have to be so dramatic, nothing of that sort will happen, even if you decide to cut your hair. This is not a TV show, where such small things make the climax of our lives and are blown out of proportion. It is finally just an extension of you, not the complete you!". Then he said, "I have a surprise for you, I saw this commercial on TV, and I thought it might help you. It says it helps strengthen your hair and prevents hair fall. I don't want you to do something in haste, out of helplessness. If you cut your hair, I want it to be your choice, not because of a lack of choice". He then handed her the Dove Hair-Aware App, and added with a smile, "Of course, it might not take care of  your hair as well as your Mom did, but this is the closest, I guess"

It has been 2 years now; that girl still has long hair and is blogging about her story, "Well, my husband's gift  surprisingly worked well and that was the end of my hair problems!"That gift held more meaning than I ever could have imagined. I still don't know if I could cut my hair just at the spur of the moment, but I know that I don't have to. I have to be comfortable with myself and my identity, irrespective of what it is. And that does not mean, things should never change. It is normal to resist change, and if and when, I decide to snip my 'Identity Tresses', I will be assured that I would still have all those wonderful memories associated with it, and that is something, no pair of scissors can nick!!

This post is an entry for the contest 'My Beautiful Hair Story' on Indiblogger.


  1. WOW wat a lovely story.... Loved its narration

    Do read mine as well:

    1. Thanks Ruchita!!! I liked the different angle on yours too, have left comments on the blog :)

  2. This is very well narrated. Actually I am always amazed at how you guys think of such a engaging narrative. Loved the title:)

    1. Thank you, Saru for your appreciation. Coming from you, these comments get more weight. I really appreciate your support and encouragement :)

  3. It was wonderful reading it... Specially because I was present in a small part of the blog.. And please tell me that it is just a story that you wanted to go for short hair.. Because people who know you can never accept that you ever wanted to go for a short hair... That just can't happen... And I'm very happy that Ms Beautiful Hair can still claim her title....

    1. Hey Bhargav,
      I am glad you enjoyed it, I was worried if I would be able to do the NDA part justice, because that night was just wonderful, we had so much fun then. And remember if you, my ball partner had not pushed me, I might not even have been up on the stage :)
      Thank you for your sweet words, I was really humbled by them :)
      As for the short hair part, sometimes I do get bursts when I want to cut it short, but like I said, I never can go through with it :)

  4. Awesome Amrutha . The style of narration was superb . Good luck . What a sweet husband !

    1. Thank you Jayashree for your appreciation and wishes...
      P.S. I am sure my husband will be happy to read your comment, so thank you on his behalf :)

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